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Vivarium 45 (2007) 283-297


Intentionality and Truth-Making:

Augustines Inuence on Burley and Wyclif s
Propositional Semantics1
Laurent Cesalli
Albert-Ludwigs-Universitt Freiburg i.Br.

Walter Burley (1275-c.1344) and John Wyclif (1328-1384) follow two clearly stated
doctrinal options: on the one hand, they are realists and, on the other, they defend a
correspondence theory of truth that involves specic correlates for true propositions,
in short: truth-makers. Both characteristics are interdependent: such a conception of
truth requires a certain kind of ontology. This study shows that a) in their explanation
of what it means for a proposition to be true, Burley and Wyclif both develop what we
could call a theory of intentionality in order to explain the relation that must obtain
between the human mind and the truth-makers, and b) that their explanations reach
back to Augustine, more precisely to his theory of ocular vision as exposed in the De
trinitate IX as well as to his conception of ideas found in the Quaestio de ideis.
semantics, ontology, realism, intentionality, truth-making, medieval philosophy

Consider the two following questions: if propositional truth depends on a

kind of correspondence relation between the mental (i.e. a mental proposition) and the non-mental (i.e. what that mental proposition is about), then
how do we bridge the gap between the mental and the non-mental? And
what kind of corresponding entity is responsible for the truth of so called nonstandard propositions (i.e. propositions whose tense is not the present or
whose subject-matter belongs to the past or the future)?
I am very grateful to Prof. Maarten J.F.M. Hoenen and Prof. John Marenbon for their reading
of and critical comments on a rst draft of this paper, as well as to Meredith Ziebart for her help
with the nal English version of this study.

Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007

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DOI: 10.1163/156853407X217777

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The present study intends to reconstruct the solutions that were given
to these problems by two prominent realist philosophers of the fourteenth
century, Walter Burley (1275-c.1344) and John Wyclif (1328-1384). These
solutions both display the remarkable common feature of all having been
elaborated under Augustinian inuence. Two facts constitute the background
of this claim. First, when attempting to describe how what he calls a real
proposition (propositio in re) is formed, Walter Burley calls upon Augustine
and his theory of ocular vision as it is expounded in De trinitate XI, a theory
in which the notion of intentio plays a central role.2 Second, when Burley and
Wyclif explain how one can generalize a rather strict correspondence-theory of
truth, they both draw upon Augustines Quaestio de ideis.3 Accordingly, my
aim is to show that reference to Augustine helped both Burley and Wyclif
with two issues crucial for propositional semantics, namely intentionality and
Following Aristotle but also Avicenna, most medieval philosophers, whether
realist or nominalist, defend a correspondence theory of truth,4 whereby to be
true for a sentence is to correspond to something else. But not all medieval
philosophers understand correspondence in the same way. The question then
is: are there any proposition-specic correlateswe would say states of
aairsthat make propositions true? This is where nominalists and realists
disagree. The former deny the existence of such specic correlates, while the
latter, often speaking of an ultimate propositional signicate, accept them.5
Thus realist thinkers like Burley and Wyclif have to face the ontological challenge of providing specic correlates, at least for every true proposition,6 while


For an excellent study of the relation between optics and vision theories on the one hand, and
theory of knowledge and semantics on the other, see Tachau (1988).
For the medieval interpretation and reception of Augustines Quaestio de ideis, cf. Hoenen
(1997) and the 2004 issue of the Revue thomiste, entirely devoted to that theme.
Cf. for example Aristote, Metaphysics, IX.10, 1051b1-8 and Categories, 5, 4a34-37, 4b8-10
and 12, 14b18-23. For the classical denition of truth as adaequatio intellectus et rei and its origin
see for example Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, q.1, a.1 (1970), 5.162-6.200, as well as Muckle
(1933) for the origin of this denition by Isaac Israeli. For the avicennian denition, see Avicenna, Philosophia prima, I.8 (1977), 83.55.
Cf. for example John Duns Scotus, Quaestiones in primum et secundum librum Perihermeneias
Aristotelis (1639), q.2, n.4; Burley Quaestiones super librum Perihermeneias (1974), 3.553, Liber
Praedicamentorum (1497), f.15vb-16ra; Wyclif, Logice continuacio, I.1 (1893), 77.
Falsity can be dened precisely as the absence of such correlate or with the correspondence to
an abstract (non real) false correlate, cf. Gregory of Rimini (1978-1987), III, 228.25-229.2.

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nominalists can get around the diculty by claiming that such correlates are
not needed at all.7
The questions of intentionality and truth-making raised above are of central
importance for philosophical and theological issues: the philosophical issue is
that of the status and the possibility of scientic knowledge in a contingent
world; the theological one regards the relation between God and scientic
truth. Indeed, our problematic does not pertain to propositional semantics
alone, but to every domain of knowledge that is concerned with the status of
objects of propositional attitudes. If specic propositional correlates do exist,
they are not just ultimate signicates or truth-makers of propositions, but also
objects of knowledge and beliefwhat p stands for in I know/believe that
p is always a proposition.
From the rst decades of the thirteenth century onwards, medieval intellectuals had to face a conicting situation: on the one hand, the Aristotelian
scientic paradigm as found in the Posterior Analytics requires all scientic
knowledge to be universal and necessary,8 on the other hand, the created
worldthat is: individuals, but also species and generais by denition contingent. Does this mean that God alone can be object and subject of genuine
scientic knowledge? To avoid this awkward consequence, one had to nd a
solution that would be compatible with both the Aristotelian scientic exigency and the contingency of the created world.
Augustines theory of ideas as expounded in his Quaestio de ideis oered
such a solution. In this short text, Augustine turned Platos abstract Ideas into
ideas in the mind of God, thus providing, within the Christian framework, an
essential link between every contingent being and its eternal and necessary
counterpart.9 The Platonic principle of participation made it possible for us to
have intellectual knowledge of the necessary and universal components of
contingent things.10 This helped to provide a framework for Aristotelian


Cf. for example Adam Wodeham (1990), 195.19-30, who says that the question quid est
signicatum propositionis? an ill-formed question is (quaestio inepta), since what a proposition does
signify is not a quid, but an esse quid. Cf. also Gl (1967), 89 and Ockham (1974), 249-250.
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, I.4 (1968), 194.25-31). This text was translated around 1150 by
James of Venice. The rst known latin commentary on the Posterior Analytics is due to Robert
Grosseteste and is dated around 1220-1230, cf. Robert Grosseteste (1981), 18-9.
Augustine, Quaestio de ideis (1975b), 70.1-71.32. For the medieval reception and tradition of
Augustines Quaestio de ideis, cf. Hoenen (1993), 121-156 and (1997), for literature, see pp. 245-246,
n. 3-4, as well as Homann (2002).
Augustine, Quaestio de ideis (1975b), 71.33-73.64.

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science in a contingentthat is createdworld, a framework that was recognized and used by Burley and Wyclif in their propositional semantics. However,
there arose a further, theological problem: if, as realist philosophers maintained, (i) true scientic propositions are made true by corresponding entities
and (ii) all genuine scientic knowledge has to be universal and necessary,
then the truth-makers of scientic propositions are universal and necessary
entities subsisting alongside God, since not every scientic truth pertains to
God. This was theologically problematic insofar as the view that there are
eternal truths distinct from God had been repeatedly discussed and condemned by the church.11 Thus, as we will see, realist philosophers like Burley
and Wyclif are careful to develop their ontology without threatening Gods
uniqueness and simplicity.

Wyclif and the Truth That Pertains to the Logician
Discussing Book IV, chapter 6 of Aristotles Metaphysics, Wyclif gives a fourfold division of truth: truth, he says in his De ente (written between 13651375), is sometimes understood in a semantic way, that is as the correspondence
by virtue of which a linguistic sign is true or false; sometimes, truth is understood in a semiotic way, that is when the sign itself is called a truth;12 sometimes, it is understood is an ontological way, when extramental reality is called
a truth; nally, truth is understood in an intermediate or mixed way, that is as
an aggregate made out of ontological truth and a mental act: aggregatum ex
veritate reali et actu anime.13 Now Wyclif adds,

The condemned thesis reads Quod multae veritates fuerunt ab aeterno, quae non sunt ipse
Deus. The series of condemnations starts in 1241 with William of Auvergne, we nd it mentioned in Bonaventures Sentence Commentary (II, d.23, a.2, q.3) and it gures in the Parisian
and Oxonian lists of errors condemned in 1277 respectively by Etienne Tempier and Robert
Kilwardby. For a reconstruction of this intricate story, cf. De Libera (2002), 177-187.
The distinction between the semantic and the semiotic truth may be understood analogically
to the distinction made by Anselm of Canterbury in De veritate, 2 between two kinds of propositional truth: alia igitur est rectitudo et veritas enuntiationis, quia signicat ad quod signicandum facta est; alia vero, quia signicat quod accepit signicare (Anselm (1946), 179.10-12). For
a more detailed account of Wyclif s theory of propositional truth, see Cesalli (2005).
Wyclif (1909), 105.

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[. . .] in order to explain the fourth kind of truth, one has to pay attention to the common
opinion of the doctors, which is that some things are entirely outside the soul, such as
wood, a stone, and the like; others are entirely within the soul, such as dreams and acts of
the soul; however some things, they say, are partially inside and partially outside the soul,
such as a universal, time, as well as other aggregates resulting of the operation of the intellect and extra-mental things. This is why philosophers say that the intellect produces universality in things.14

We shall see below that Walter Burley is most probably one of the Doctores
Wyclif has in mind when he refers to a vulgata sentencia doctorum. According
to Wyclif, the four kinds of truth can be distributed to dierent disciplines.
Thus, the grammarian is interested in semiotic truth and the metaphysician in
ontological truth. As for the rst and the fourth kind of truth, they pertain to
the logician15 who considers the truth in a mixed way (mixtim), that is as an
ontological truth as it is considered by the mind: Thus the logician conceives
in a mixed way that the proposition the world exists is true on the side of
things in so far as the mind thinks about it.16 Summing up, truth as it pertains to the logician results from a mixed causality of extramental or ontological truth on the one hand, and a cognitive mental act, on the other. In modern
terms, one could say that a true proposition is, according to the logician, an
extra-mental truth present in the mind as a complex intentional object.
Burley and the ens copulatum
Burley introduces the notion of propositio in re in his so called middle commentary on the Perihermeneias (c.1310) to answer the following relativist
objection: if the truth of a proposition is primarily in the mind, does this
mean that there will be as many truths as there are minds composing them?
Not at all, replies Burley. What is multiplied according to the number of

Ibid.: Unde pro explanacione quarti membri, notanda vulgata sentiencia doctorum, que est:
aliquod est totaliter extra animam, ut lignum, lapis, et cetera; aliquod totaliter in anima, ut
sompnia et actus anime; aliquod autem, ut dicunt, partim in anima et partim extra animam, ut
universale, tempus et cetera aggregata ex operacione intellectus et rebus extra. Unde dicunt philosophi quod intellectus facit universalitatem in rebus. For the authority according to which the
intellect causes universality in things, cf. Auctoritates Aritsotelis, 6.27 (Hamesse (1974), 176), the
source of which is Averroes, In De anima I, com. 8 (Averroes (1953), 12.25-26).
Wyclif (1909), 108: Illud <sc. verum et falsum non sunt in rebus, sed in mente> verum est
de vero et falso primo et quarto modo dictis, quorum consideracio pertinet ad logicos, qui non
consistunt citra composicionem et divisionem in anima.
Wyclif (1909), 109: logicus autem concipit sic mixtim, quod mundum esse est verum ex
parte rei, ut mens cogitat.

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individual intellects are mental subjective propositions, but their truth is itself
dependent on their correspondence with an objective mental proposition that
one can call, so says Burley, a propositio in re. Such an objective mental proposition is the ultimate propositional signicate. Many years later, in his last
commentary on the Categories (1337), Burley expounds his theory once again,
and this time he is more careful to explain exactly what that ultimate propositional signicate is. Let us now consider two features of this propositio in re.
First, it is described as being partly (partim) in the mind and partly outside
the mind; more precisely, its formal part (the copula) is a mental act, while its
material parts (subject and predicate) are extramental things.17 A similar thesis
is already present in Burleys early Quaestiones super Porphyrium, which can be
read as a synthesizing lecture on the last two cases of the Avicenno-Albertinian
distinction between universals ante rem, in re, and post rem.18
Second, when it comes to the question of how such a hybrid item can possess any kind of unity, Burley calls upon the De trinitate, explaining the formation of the propositio in re according to the model of vision analysed in book
XI of Augustines theological treatise:19 just as the sense of vision possesses a
force called intentio, which is capable of maintaining the sense of vision coupled with a visible object, thus producing the actual vision of an extramental
object, so the intellect possesses an intentio capable of producing the actual
signication of an object:
But one might ask here how it is that a single composite can be made from a thing existing
in the intellect and a thing existing outside of the soul. To this it must be answered that

Burley (1497a), 16rb: Unde cum propositio sit triplex, quaedam in prolatione, quaedam in
conceptu et quaedam signicata per propositionem in conceptu que potest dici propositio in re,
propositio primo modo dicta, scilicet propositio in prolatione, est totaliter extra animam et talis
propositio totaliter componitur ex vocibus que habent esse extra animam. Propositio vero composita ex conceptibus est totaliter in intellectu. Et compositio composita ex rebus partim est in
intellectu et partim extra intellectum. Quantum ad suum formale est in intellectu sed quantum
ad materialia est totaliter extra intellectum.
Burley, Quaestiones super Porphyrium, q. 7, quoted in Burley (1998), 78, n.18; Albert the
Great, De praedicabilibus, II.3, (1889), 24a-b; Avicenna (1508), f.12ra. Avicenna himself takes
this doctrine from the neoplatonic Commentators of Aristotle such as Ammonius and Simplicius. It ultimately goes back to Plato and Aristotle: the universal ante rem corresponds to the
Platonic Idea, the universal in re to the Platonic participated form and the Aristotelian immanent form, the universal post rem to the abstract concept according to Aristotle, see De Libera
(1996), 183-185, 501.
Augustine, De trinitate, XI, ii, 2. For the role of the notion of intentio in Augustines theory
of ocular vision and mental language, see Sirridge (1999).

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such a composite can be made by intellectual but not by real composition, and that such a
composite can be called a copulated being; and a copulated being can be produced not only
by the intellect, but also by the senses or by the intention of the senses. For Augustine says
that intention couples the sense, or the operation of the sense, with the sensible object.20

In its most articulate and nal formulation, then, Burleys theory of the propositio in re is explained along the lines of Augustines analyses of ocular vision.
Both Burley and Wyclif describe a kind of logical object grounded in extramental reality as well as in mental activity. The former explains its formation
in reference to the theory of vision as found in the De trinitate, the latter
claims he is just reproducing a vulgata sententia doctorum, one of these doctors
most probably being Burley himself.21 A propositio in re, says Burley, is partly
in the soul and partly outside of the soul, while according to Wyclif, the truth
as it pertains to the logician is conceived in a mixed way, that is: when a
cognitive act is directed towards an extramental truth. In both cases, what is
described is the ability of the mind to produce complex intentional objects.

Burley and the Permanence of Truth
Burley defends a correspondence-theory of truth: a proposition is true if something corresponds to it and makes it true. More precisely, what makes a proposition true is the identity of the things signied respectively by the subject
and predicate terms. Such a theory works well in simple, factual cases. But
how about when the things which make a proposition true no longer exist?
Burley considers and provides a solution to this kind of problem: the proposition Caesar est Caesar, for example, is true now because there is now a relation
of identity between Caesar and himself, not as a being as it exists, but as a

Burley (1497a), 16rb-va: Sed dubium est hic qualiter potest eri unum compositum ex re
existente in intellectu et re existente extra animam. Dicendum quod ex talibus potest eri unum
compositum compositione intellectuali non autem compositione reali et tale compositum potest
dici ens copulatum et potest eri ens copulatum et non solum per intellectum sed etiam per
sensum vel per intentionem sensus. Dicit enim beatus Augustinus quod intentio copulat sensum
vel operationem sensus cum sensibili obiecto.
Besides the patent similarities in Burleys and Wyclif s respective theories of the ens copulatum
and of the veritas quae pertinet ad logicum, the claim that Wyclif knew Burleys theory
of the proposition is supported by its explicit mention in the De universalibus, 1 (Wyclif
(1985a), 21.85-92).

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super-transcendent being or a being that is common to all intelligibles.22

Does this mean that anything one can think of can be the truth-maker of a
proposition? Burleys insistence on the objective character of truth is certainly
incompatible with such an interpretation. So what is that being common to
all intelligibles? Let us try to clarify this point by considering some of Burleys
other texts.
The problem here is what one can call the problem of the permanence of
truth, that is, of the permanence of the two extremes of the correspondence
relation which denes truth: a proposition and its truth-maker. To be able
to deal with non-simple factual cases, Burley introduces into his theory
an independence of being and actual existence on three dierent levels. We
have just encountered the rst with the example of the proposition Caesar est
Caesarthe independence of the being of a truth-maker in regard to its actual
existence via the notion of being common to all intelligibles. The second is
the independence of ontological truth in regard to the intellect. The third is
the independence of the truth of any proposition in regard to its actual formation. All of these elements occur in the following text, taken from the so called
middle commentary on the Perihermeneias, probably written around 1310:
Thus I say that the thing signied by the proposition man is an animal does not depend
on the intellect, just as the truth of that thing does not depend on it; (. . .) The mental
propositions that the intellect makes by perceiving such extra-mental truths correspond to
things that are so related in reality. Thus I say that the truth which is subjectively in the
intellect is nothing but a certain correspondence between the intellect and a proposition
that is only objectively in the intellect. (. . .) Therefore, it is possible for the proposition man
is an animal, insofar as it is subjectively in the intellect, not to exist, but insofar as it is
objectively in the intellect, it is impossible for it not to be, or not to be true.23
Burley (1497b), 58rb: Dicendum quod Caesare corrupto identitas est Caesaris ad Caesarem,
sed illa identitas non existit, sed est identitas rationis. Et idem Caesarem idem Caesari identitate
quae non est nec oportet quod idem et diversum semper sint dierentie entis maxime transcendentis quod scilicet est in intellectu. Unde sic potest dici, quod ens dicitur dupliciter: uno modo
ut est commune omni intelligibili, alio modo idem est quod existens. Sic idem et diversum dicitur uno modo ut sunt dierentie entis transcendentis, alio modo ut sunt dierentie entis in
eectu, hoc est in actu existentis.
Burley (1973), 1.27: Unde dico quod res signicata per istam homo est animal non
dependet ab intellectu nec etiam veritas istius rei; (. . .) Istis tamen sic se habentibus in re correspondent propositiones in intellectu quas intellectus ecit ex hoc quod percipit tales veritates
extra. Unde dico quod veritas quae est subiective in intellectu non est nisi quaedam adaequatio
intellectus ad propositionem veram quae solum habet esse obiectivum in intellectu. (. . .) Unde
ista homo est animal quae est propositio habens esse subiective in intellectu potest non esse,
tamen ista ut solum habet esse obiectivum in intellectu non potest non esse nec non esse vera.

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We nd the very same idea in Burleys Super tractatum fallaciarum (probably

written at Oxford, in the rst decade of the fourteenth century).24 There, Burley considers an objection that is similar to the one mentioned above and in
reply to which he had introduced the notion of propositio in re. In the Super
tractatum fallaciarum, the problem is the following: Burley has just stated that
insofar as a syllogism exists in the mind (in mente), it cannot cease to be, as
opposed to what happens to written or spoken syllogisms. Now comes the
objector: if the proper being of a syllogism is in the mind, then, when a syllogism is no longer in the same mindfor example not in my mind anymore,
but in someone elsesit must cease to be; and thus, Burleys thesis of the
permanent existence of a syllogism in the mind is mistaken. Burleys answer is
Against this it is argued that if the proper being of a syllogism were in the mind, then it
would cease to be if at some later point it were no longer in the same mind (. . .). To that, it
must be replied that the being of a proposition or syllogism does not depend essentially
upon my mind or yours, but upon the intellect of an intelligence from which it never
recedes. Thus if a syllogism were now in a particular mind and then later not, it would cease
to have the subjective being that it had, but would not cease to be essentially.25

There are two points of particular interest in this passage: the rst is the explanation of the permanence of a proposition through a non-human intellect,
that is, through the intellect of some intelligence (intellectus alicuius intelligentiae);26 the second is the link implicitly made here between the objective
being of a proposition and the intellect of that intelligence. In other words,
when Burley says of a proposition as being objectively in the soul that it is
impossible for it not to be, nor to be untrue (cf. Burley (1973), 1.27 cited

Burley (2003), 151-207 (197-207).

Burley (2003), 200: Contra illud arguitur: si proprium esse syllogismi esset in mente, si
postea non sit in eadem mente, desinit inesse (. . .). Ad illud dicendum quod esse propositionis
vel syllogismi non dependet essentialiter a mente mea vel tua, sed essentialiter dependet ab intellectu alicuius intelligentiae a quo numquam recedit. Unde si aliquis syllogismus nunc sit in
mente alicuius et postea non, desinit habere esse subiectivum quod habuit, non tamen desinit
esse essentialiter.
As S. Ebbesen remarks (Burley (2003), 156): It is no common place in works of logic to
appeal to the intellect of an intelligence, i.e. of a separate substance, in order to provide propositions with a permanent essence. For the incorporation of the (originally Aristotelian) intelligences, that is intellectual and non-material substances, into medieval latin Philosophy, see for
example Thomas Aquinas, De ente et essentia, c. IV. Besides Avicennas Metaphysica or Philosophia
prima, the neoplatonic Liber de Causis plays a prominent role in that process of integration.

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above p. 290), he might mean its being objectively contained in the intellect
of a non-human intelligence.27
In this respect, it is worth comparing what Burley says in the above cited
texts with what can be found in his later metaphysical treatise De universalibus
(written after 1337). The whole fth chapter of that treatise can be seen as a
commentary on Augustines Quaestio de ideis. There, Burley asks the following
question: whether <universals> exist in God, as those say who assert that the
divine mind contains ideas representing the images of created things, or
whether they exist per se outside of the divine mind. His answer is that universals, or ideas, do exist in the divine intellect, but one has to be careful not
to identify simpliciter ideas with the divine essence.28 An idea, according to
Burley, is a kind of connotative entity. In its principal dimension, an idea in
the divine mind is really identical with the divine essence; in its connotative
dimension however, it is dierent from it. For example, in their principal
dimension, that is, as pre-representations of creatures, the ideas both of man
and horse are identical with the divine essence; but the connotata (Burley also
speaks of ydeata) of those ideas, that is, the creatures man and horse, are distinct from the divine essence:
Therefore Augustine says in his book On 83 Questions, that they <i.e. ideas> were from
eternity exemplary models representing things to be created (. . .). (. . .) the idea of man and
the idea of horse are really identical, because they are the same as the divine essence; nevertheless, they are dierent with respect to their connotation, because the idea of man connotes man and not horse, and the idea of horse connotes horse and not man.29

In question 4 of his Quaestiones super Sophisticos Elenchos (Burley (2003), 162), Burley also
mentions a non-human intelligence in his argumentation. As a reply to an objection according
to which a vocal sound (vox) cannot be equivocal because, as a bearer of forms, a vocal sound
cannot bear at the same time dierent forms of the same kind (in the present case, dierent
rationes signicandi), Burley states that this would be true if the rationes signicandi were real
forms like whitenesses for example. However, the rationes signicandi at stake are not real but
intentional forms ( formae intentionales) which can exist simultaneously in the same subject as,
for example, a vocal sound. To reinforce his answer, Burley describes the case of the separate
intelligences who contain eternally all the species of intelligible things.
Burley (1998), 52: Ex istis potest patere error quorundam dicencium quod omnes res intellectae a deo ab eterno sunt idem quod essencia divina.
Burley (1998), 46-48: Et ideo ponit Augustinus in libello suo De Octoginta Tribus Questionibus quod ab eterno fuerunt <sc. Ydee> exemplaria representancia res faciendas. (. . .) ydea
hominis et ydea equi sunt idem realiter, quia sunt idem quod essencia divina, sunt tamen diversa
quantum ad connotata, quia ydea hominis connotat hominem et non equum, et ydea equi connotat equum et non hominem.

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Now, as things to be created the connotata or ydeata horse and man are eternally and objectively present in the divine mind, and are distinct from the
divine essence only in an intelligible way.30
We can now, I think, try to bring together the dierent pieces of the puzzle:
the problem of the permanence of truth, that is, of the generalisation of a
correspondence-theory of truth, is solved by Burley thanks to the notion of
the objective being of universal natures, propositions and syllogisms, in the
precise sense of their being permanent objects of permanent intellection by a
non-human intellect. In his earlier logical works, Burley speaks of intelligentia;
in his later metaphysical tract on universals, he speaks of the divine mind and
explicitly links his solution of the problem with his interpretation of Augustines Quaestio de ideis. Coming back to the example we started from, we can
now say that what grants the truth of a proposition like Caesar est Caesar
where Cesar is not alive anymore, is the identity of Cesar with himself as
objectively present in, that is, eternally thought by, a non-human intellect.31
Wyclif and Divine Truth-Making
There is a very strong truth-making principle in Wyclif s thought. As Antony
Kenny puts in the notes of his translation of the De universalibus (c.1374):
According to <Wyclif>, predication <is> not just the attachment of a predicate to a subject within a sentence, but the feature of the real world which
makes such a predication true.32
As we did in Burley, we also nd in Wyclif the idea that truth possesses a
kind of permanence by being permanently the object of intellection of some
intellecthuman, or non-human. In his De entea metaphysical work already
mentioned when examining Wyclif s typology of truth33he states that if one
wants to know which of the four kinds of truth depend on an intellect, and

Burley (1998), 50-54: Dicendum quod ydeata fuerunt eterna obiective in essencia divina,
hoc est ab eterno erant representata et intellecta a deo. (. . .). Concedo quod res creanda est aliud
a deo accipiendo ly aliud ut est dierentia entis transcendentis; et eciam quoad ens accipiendo
ly ens ut est nomen maxime transcendens, quia ens isto modo dictum est convertibile com hoc
communi intelligibile.
Similar theories of the permanence of truth are found in Augustines Soliloquia (II.2), Gregory of Riminis Lectura (1978-1987), t. 3, 228 and in the Abreviatio of Adam Wodehams Lectura
by Henry Totting of Oyta (1512), 118r.
Wyclif (1985b), 182.
See above, p. 286.

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which do not, one has to say that each kind of truth depends on an intellect,
provided we do not restrict the notion of intellect to the human one.34
Thus, the semantic and semiotic truths of a sentence, the truth of a judgment as considered by a logician and the ontological truth of reality all are
dependent on an intellect: the rst three depend immediately on the human
intellect, the fourth on the divine intellect. But all four depend ultimately on
the divine intellect, and this for two reasons:35 rst, because whatever is created or caused exists primarily in the divine intellect; second, because the
divine intellect is responsible for the intelligibility of the world with respect to
our intellectual faculty as well as its possible objects. As for necessary truths
like mathematical propositions, they depend only on the divine intellect.
Indeed, says Wyclif, if all intellects were destroyedread: all human intellectsGod would still know that 2 plus 3 equals 5.36 Still, and even if there
cannot be any human science capable of giving an accurate account of such
truths per se, they nevertheless have a cause:
And thus there cannot be a science that would be adequate to those sacred things that are
analytical truths. Therefore, Augustine writes in De doctrina Christiana book 2, chapter 32:
that truth of connections has not been instituted, but only noticed by human beings, since
it is in the eternal nature of things by divine institution.37

We, as human, can grasp these divine truths, not because we are able to see
what is in the divine mind, but because the intelligibility of created things
somehow provides us with access to those eternal truths. Now if God, or the
divine mind, is the ultimate cause of such necessary truths, one must be careful
on one hand, not to identify them simpliciter with God (because they are many,
and God is one), and on the other hand, not to separate them simpliciter from
God (because if anything is eternal, then that thing can only be God):

Wyclif (1909), 105-106.

Wyclif (1909), 108.
Wyclif (1909), 105. Although mathematical true propositions like 2 + 3 = 5 are not ontological truths in the same sense as, for example, the existence of Socrates is one (if Socrates exists),
they share a common property with the ontological truth, namely their subsisting independently
of any human intellect. Furthermore, Wyclif suggests a connection between mathematical and
ontological truth.
Wyclif (1909), 105-106: Et tamen inpossibile sit dari sciencia proporcionata illis sanctis que
de virtute sermonis sunt veritates. Unde Augustinus, 2 De doctrina christiana 32, sic scribit:
illa veritas coneccionum non instituta est, set animadversa ab hominibus, cum sit in rerum
racione perpetua et divinitus instituta. For the reference to Augustine, see De doctrina Christiana, II.32.

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(. . .) no such truth, although it has existed forever, expresses an essence or a nature which is
eternal in such a way that it can only be God. (. . .) Nevertheless, formally speaking, there is
no doubt that they are mutually distinct, as well as distinct from God, as we read in Augustines question 46 De ydeis.38

Necessary or eternal truths are in God just as other res rationis are in Him, that
is: without having to be really distinct from Him. There is a real identity and
a formal distinction in God between its essence and, for example, eternal
truths.39 Making Gods intellect the place where necessary or eternal truths
subsist, is not very original. But Wyclif goes one signicant step further: in
addition, contingent truths like possibilities, past and future truths also subsist
in the divine intellect. Moreover these truths are said to be signied by the
corresponding propositions.40
Certainly, when we utter a true proposition such as, for example, Sor est
homo, we are not talking about Gods intellect nor about its content. But if
it so happens that the proposition Sor est homo is true, what makes it true,
ultimately is in the divine intellect. As Wyclif puts it in the De universalibus,
commenting Augustines Quaestio de ideis:
And if it is asked: what is such an ability to produce <truth>? It is replied that it is nothing
which diers essentially from God. Thus, formally, it is not something but a thing of reason, it does not belong to any created genus but it is present by reduction in the same genus
in which is its ideatum, since it is its principle, just as the idea of human being is in the
human species, and consequently in the genus of substance, and in a way, speaking about
the species, it is per se the species of human being.41

What makes propositions true, regardless of their contingency or necessity, are

the intelligible traces left by Gods Ideas in creation.42 The Ideas themselves are

Wyclif (1909), 106: (. . .) nulla talis veritas, quamvis sit eterna a parte ante, dicit aliquam
essenciam vel naturam sic eternam, nisi solum deum. (. . .) Et tamen, loquendo formaliter, non
<est> dubium quin distinguntur ab invicem et a deo, ut patet per Augustinum De ydeis questione 46.
Wyclif (1909), 112.
Wyclif (1909), 111.
Wyclif (1985a), 373: Et si quaeratur: quid est talis productibilitas? Dicitur quod nihil essentialiter nisi Deus. Formaliter autem non est aliquid sed res rationis, non per se in aliquo genere
creato sed per reductionem in eodem genere in quo est suum ideatum cum sit eius principium,
ut idea hominis est in specie humana, et per consequens in genere substantiae, et uno modo,
loquendo de specie, est per se species hominis (. . .).
In the following lines of the text quoted in the previous note, Wyclif calls upon Robert Grosseteste and his own conception of the relation between divine ideas and universals as exposed in his
commentary on Aristotles Posterior Analytics, I.7, Cf. Robert Grosseteste (1981), 139.96-142.157.

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in the divine mind, but what human beings can grasp directly and start from
in their intellectual activity, are in the created things themselves as ideata.

Let us conclude with three points. First, this short study of the Burleyan propositio in re and the Wyclian veritas quae pertinet ad logicum has shown that
Wyclif s approach is dependent upon Burleys, whose model is in turn Augustines description of ocular vision in the De trinitate. The common preoccupation of these three thinkers is with an explanation of how the mind, interacting
with the extra-mental world by means of its intentio, produces specic, intentional objects: the content of sense perception, for Augustine, the truth which
pertains to the logician, for Wyclif, and for Burley, the ultimate signicate of
Second, when, in the context of correspondence-theories of truth as we
have them in Burley and Wyclif, it comes down to the question of how
such theorie work in cases in which no actual signifcates existas in the case
of true propositions about non-existent objects, or in the case of eternal
truthsboth Burley and Wyclif call upon a non-human intellect as the place
where that which can be expressed by human sentences subsists as a permanent object of thought; and they do so in reference to Augustines Quaestio
de ideis.
Third, as for the specic question of the permanence of a proposition which
is not actually formed by anyone, Burley seems to rely, on at least two occasions, on an Avicennian-like cosmological gnoseology. In spite of the fact that
the terminology and the dialectical context of these passages are similar to
those in which Burley uses Augustines Quaestio de ideis, one cannot, I think,
simply replace intelligentia in the earlier texts by mens divinaone sucient
reason for that being that the plural intelligentiis used there by Burley is
incompatible with divine simplicity.
This brief analysis of Burleys and Wyclif s solutions to the crucial problems
of (a) giving an explanation of mind/world interaction and (b) generalizing
a strict correspondence theory of truth, has shown that Augustine played an
important role in such matters in the fourteenth century. Realist thinkers like

For the role played by Augustine not only in medieval theories of intentionality, but also
in Franz Brentanos characterization of intentional objects as possessing a so called mental inexistence, see Perler (2002), 403-405.

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Burley and Wyclif found in Augustines works, besides his denition and
classication of signs, and theory of the inner word, constitutive elements for
the semantic and ontological aspects of their propositional logic. These elements became constituent of what we may call their theories of intentionality
and truth-making.

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